The common charging solution promotes the use of common chargers for mobile phones and similar electronic devices.
In 2019, the Commission commissioned a study to consider an appropriate legislative approach. The study considered the impact of a common charger solution on consumers, the industry and the environment, with guidance for possible implementation of different policy options.
Impact assessment study: common chargers of portable devices (December 2019)
The study concluded that complementing a common charger solution with e-waste reduction measures, such as incentivising or mandating unbundling, would enhance the solution's benefits.
We commissioned complementary studies on these aspects in October 2020.
- Impact assessment study: unbundling of chargers for mobile phones and similar devices (June 2021) - to identify different regulatory and non-regulatory policy options to achieve unbundling and address the technical pre-conditions and consequences of unbundling
- Technical supporting study: wireless charging technologies used for mobile phones and similar devices (April 2021) - to analyse and update on the status of wireless charging technologies
What the Commission is doing
The Commission promotes solutions that favour technological innovation in electronic device charging while avoiding market fragmentation.
The voluntary approach did not meet the consumers', the European Parliament’s and the Commission’s own expectations, so we put forward a legislative approach.
Our proposal is based on recent studies and aims to improve consumers’ convenience, reduce the environmental footprint associated with the production and disposal of chargers, all while maintaining innovation.
Included in the Commission’s proposal
A harmonised charging port for electronic devices
USB-C will be the common port. This will allow consumers to charge their devices with any USB-C charger, regardless of the device brand.
Harmonised fast charging technology
Harmonisation will help prevent different producers unjustifiably limiting charging speed and will help to ensure that charging speed is the same when using any compatible charger for a device.
Unbundling the sale of a charger from the sale of the electronic device
Consumers will be able to purchase a new electronic device without a new charger. This will limit the number of chargers on the market or left unused. Reducing production and disposal of new chargers is estimated to reduce the amount of electronic waste by 980 tonnes yearly.
Improved information for consumers
Producers will need to provide relevant information about charging performance, including information on the power the device requires and whether it supports fast charging. This will help consumers see if their existing chargers meet their new device’s requirements or help them select a compatible charger. Combined with the other measures, this would help consumers limit the number of new chargers purchased and save €250 million a year on unnecessary charger purchases.
Wireless charging is still a developing technology currently showing a low level of fragmentation, and a good level of interoperability among the different solutions. It seems premature to set out mandatory requirements. However, the proposal includes empowerments that would enable the Commission to set requirements later on, if necessary.
The Commission proposal for an amendment of the Radio Equipment Directive was adopted by the College on 23 September 2021.
- Proposal for a Directive amending the Radio Equipment Directive 2014/53/EU
- Impact assessment report accompanying the proposal
- Press release
The Commission’s proposal for a revised Radio Equipment Directive will need to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council by ordinary legislative procedure (co-decision). A transition period of 24 months from the date of adoption will give industry ample time to adapt before the entry into application.
To complement the common charging solution, interoperability shall be obtained on the side of the external power supply that is plugged into an electrical outlet in the wall. The Ecodesign Regulation (2019/1782) covers these external power supplies. The Commission is working on reviewing this Ecodesign Regulation, with the aim, among other things, to promote interoperability by introducing corresponding requirements and provide information to consumers related to the external power supply.
These two initiatives are therefore fully complementary and the combination of both will provide a strong legislative framework for the common charger.
In the past, mobile telephones were only compatible with specific mobile telephone chargers. An estimated 500 million mobile phones were in use in 2009 in all EU countries.
The chargers used often varied according to the manufacturer and model and more than 30 different types of chargers were on the market. Apart from inconveniencing consumers, this created unnecessary electronic waste.
The European Commission facilitated an agreement among major handset manufacturers to adopt a common charger for data-enabled mobile phones sold in the EU.
In June 2009, phone manufacturers agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU), agreeing to harmonise chargers for new models of data-enabled handsets, coming onto the market as of 2011.
The MoU expired at the end of 2012 but it has effectively been extended by a number of its signatories through two subsequent ‘letters of intent’, signed in 2013 and 2014.
A study was concluded in August 2014 to evaluate results from the impact of the MoU on the harmonisation of mobile phone chargers and future options (August 2014). It analysed how the objectives of delivering benefits for consumers and industry were met, the results concerning electronic waste reduction, and provided all information relevant for appropriate follow-up options.
The new Radio Equipment Directive (RED) was adopted in 2014. Under which, building on the study’s conclusions, the Commission was empowered to adopt delegated acts to ensure the interoperability of electronic devices with common chargers.
Between 2014 and 2018, the Commission made great efforts to reach a consensus on a new MoU. Unfortunately, the proposition of the industry in March 2018 was not considered satisfactory for a common charging solution, improving consumer convenience or reducing e-waste.
In January 2020, the European Parliament intervened with a ‘Resolution on a universal charger for mobile radio equipment’.